Probably the worst, most tedious, bad-tempered Final in the history of the World Cup… Brian Glanville The Story of the World Cup.
The 1990 tournament had the lowest goals-per-match average of all World Cups. There were 115 goals, an average of 1 goal every 42.7 minutes.There was only one match where both teams scored more than one goal.
Defensive play dominated- The Republic of Ireland, for example, reached the quarter-finals despite scoring only 2 goals. They also did not win a single match outright. Both semi finals were decided on penalties.
Other features of the tournament were the high number of sendings off- 16, and a record number of penalty awards. Even the opener in which Cameroon defeated the holders Argentina was most memorable for the brutal play of the Cameroonians who were reduced to 9 men by the end.
The rules of the game were changed largely in response to this cynical, unpalletable fare- back passes to the goalkeeper were outlawed (ROI’s game against Egypt, possibly one of the least interesting ever, saw goalkeeper Packy Bonner keeping the ball for 5 minutes),as was the tackle from behind.
The final was truly dreadful- Argentina didn’t seem to want to play and the Germans, playing their third successive final, reacted theatrically to physical challenges. The crowd were hostile towards the Argentinians,who had defeated Italy in the semi final, and as the national anthem was jeered Maradonna could be seen muttering ‘sons of bitches’ in response. In the 65th minute, Argentina’s Pedro Monzon was sent off for a foul on Klinsmann (who threw himself around like a fish in the bottom of a boat). Team-mate Gustavo Dezotti received the second red card of the game with four minutes left, by which time Brehme had scored the only goal of the game from the spot after the referee had awarded a soft penalty when Rudi Völler went down.
Away from football the early nineties were times of great change, and this tournament saw the last appearances of West Germany, USSR, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.
Italy discovered a hero in Salvatore ‘Totò’ Schillaci – the Juventus striker made his debut as substitute in the opening game against Austria and finished the tournament as top scorer with six goals- he only scored one further goal in his international career.